A new report by academics at Brunel, Cardiff and Kent Universities has seen young people in Hillingdon, Newham and Bradford endorse inclusive schools. The Youth on Religion project, which surveyed more than 10,000 13 to 17-year-olds and interviewed around 160 17 to 18-year-olds, found most young people ‘stress how multi-faith schooling, providing opportunities to get to know other pupils with a range of faith values, is good preparation for later life, including going to university. Mixing at school or college also encourages an interest in diversity and helps to reduce prejudice.’
The report also found that ‘Multi-faith schools do not, however, provide any guarantee of integration. Reports of religious and cultural groups clustering together, and clear indications that pupils are particularly likely to choose best friends from similar faith and cultural backgrounds, emerged from the study. Nonetheless serious clashes between faith groups at school or college seemed rare. Arguments and name-calling were reported but did not appear to be predominantly about religious values, even if religious labels were used as forms of abuse.’
Commenting on the findings, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition, said ‘This research supports the Fair Admissions Campaign’s call for no religious discrimination in admissions to state funded schools. Currently 1.2 million school places are subject to faith-based admissions criteria, the result being mono-faith, mono-ethnic schools.
‘The report also rightly highlights that integrated schooling does not solve all the problems with religious and ethnic segregation. But it’s difficult to know how children from different backgrounds can even be expected to mingle when the very institutions they attend are mono-cultural. This seems to me to present an insurmountable barrier to an integrated society, right from the very start – in fact it is the school endorsing such segregation, sending entirely the wrong message to our young people. By comparison, self-segregation within a school is something that that school can work to overcome with comparative ease.’
Professor Ted Cantle of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘Schools should provide natural meeting places for both students and parents from different backgrounds and there can be no better intercultural education than that based on first-hand experience of “others”. Religious selection will often completely undermine these experiences and reinforce prejudices and stereotypes.’
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Read the recent news item ‘Ethnically mixed schools help pupils overcome discrimination’: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/ethnically-mixed-schools-help-pupils-overcome-discrimination-2/
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.